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Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Getting the “High” Out of Higher Education

posted by Linda Mintle

partyI love watching college football. You all know Michigan is my team! But what I don’t love is watching the number of college kids getting totally trashed at games. It’s like a right of passage that doesn’t end well.

An article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, Campus Life 101: Staying Sober, and addresses the growing problem of substance abuse on college campuses. The focus of the article was on the efforts of a few major universities establishing substance abuse recovery programs.

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According to the article, students ages 18-24 are the fastest growing demographic of Americans seeking treatment for substance abuse. The highest use of alcohol (five or more drinks on five or more occasions within a month) are Americans ages 20-22 at college campuses. During the first decade of the millennium, students seeking substance abuse help more than doubled  compared with older Americans (SAMHSA). One consequence of increased substance abuse on campuses is increasing drop out rates due to addiction.

Bottom line, college is a difficult place to stay sober. The idea of a developing a recovery community on campuses is a positive move, but my concern is that colleges are addressing symptoms not causes. To tackle the problem, one has to look at the causes of increased substance abuse and fix those.

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Here are 10 underlying issues that come to mind:

1) President Emeritus, Donald Harward, of Bates College in Maine believes that substance abuse is a symptom of students not being engaged in academic or civil life on campus.

2) Surveys indicate that students use substances to relax, deal with stress or escape problems.

3) The college environment promotes drinking behaviors (NIAAA).

4) Many college students believe that their peers drink more than they actually do. The belief that “everyone is doing it” and drinking is acceptable leads to increased use (NIAAA).

5) Movies about college glorify drinking and partying as if these are a right of passage (Think National Lampoon’s Animal House, Old School, etc).

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6) Media, in general, glorifies drinking and escaping through substances.

7) Substance abuse can be prompted by poor coping skills when it comes to handling academic pressure.

8) Students who have difficulty adjusting to transitions, leaving home and balancing social and academic life are at risk for substance abuse.

9) College administrators have given up trying to control their communities and take a “hands off” approach.

10) Students who have untreated mental health issues like depression and anxiety can medicate through substances.

While I applaud the few universities trying to address treatment of substance abuse problems on their campuses, the real need is to address the underlying causes.

In order to take the “high” out of higher education, we have to address the social, emotional and spiritual problems that lead a person to escape and avoid through substance abuse.

 

 

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What Mom Knew But Scientists Discovered

posted by Linda Mintle

pianoAs I was dusting my piano the other day, I thought about how much I hated to practice as a kid. Yes, all three kids in my family were forced to take piano lessons. I hated the 30 minutes of boring scales and sections of classical music that took forever to learn. I could be playing, out with friends and doing something useful with my life!

One day, I was so over the practice regiment that I carved my initials in to the wood of the piano–an action I deeply regretted as I inherited that piano! And then, of course, I forced my two kids to take piano lessons.

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My mom used to say, “Trust me, you will thank me someday. No one ever regrets taking piano, but people do regret not knowing how to play.” And she was right.

There was a benefit to all those hours of musical lessons that my mom didn’t know.

Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center found that adults ages 60-83 who took music lessons as children performed better on memory and brain function tests than those who never had lessons. And the benefits existed for those who didn’t continue playing the piano into adulthood. Furthermore, the earlier the musical lessons began, and the longer a child took lessons correlated with more brain benefit. The theory is that those early brain connections made through music, serve us well in later years.

So thanks mom for making me practice day in and day out. And sorry for the carving that ruined the beautiful wood.

Not only do I enjoy playing the piano now, but my ant-aging brain thanks you as well.

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Six Tips to Embrace The Stress of Change

posted by Linda Mintle

exerciseI go to the gym three times a week because I am a grown up and know I need to do this, not because I enjoy it. I don’t! I am used to getting in there, hitting the cardio machine and then cruzing over to the weight bearing machines. I am in and out in an hour and feel like I’ve accomplished something towards better physical and emotional health.

The other day, it took me two hours (that I couldn’t afford) to figure out my computer print out instructing me towards improved physical health. And the patient trainer, trying to be helpful, told me to save time by entering all the data and learning the exercises at home on my computer. To which I responded, “I’m trying to get off my computer, not spend more time on it! I just want my old routine back and don’t want to work this hard at learning another new system.” Sensing I was on the verge of break down, he tried reassuring me that life would improve once I learned the new system.

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So why am I in a tizzy about my exercise routine? Bottom line, it requires change.

And right now, I don’t want to learn a brand new system and take the time to watch videos to explain what a heel crunch is! I’m trying to simplify my life, not complicate it. But everyday life is all about change. And change is fast and constant in today’s world.

However change, even when positive, is stressful.

After a few moments of realizing how worked up I was becoming, I looked at the struggling trainer and smiled. “Thanks for trying to help. I know what I need to do.”

1) Embrace, don’t fight change. Wishing for the old system when it will soon cease to exist was not helping me calm down. Change was happening whether I embraced it or not.

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2) Change my thoughts from negative to positive. So instead of thinking this new way was part of a conspiracy theory to make my life more complicated, I shifted my thinking to a positive reality. The old system caused me to plateau in my routine. This new system would shake up my routine and provide better results.

3) Look at this as a new challenge versus an imposition. When I put my mind to it, I can do new things. And novelty is good for brain health.

4) Calm down. We are talking exercise here, not loss of life. A few deep breaths and muscle relaxation while I read the scriptures plastered on the walls of my gym, calmed my body and mind.I don’t think the Apostle Paul intended the passage,  “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me”, to help with exercise, but certainly when we face difficult change, God is with us to walk us through the stress and circumstance.

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5) Problem-solve. How can I make this change work for me. I generated a few simple solutions (e.g., ignore the machines when I don’t have time, do what I can in the time frame I have, grab a trainer who can show me the exercise so I don’t spend hours on the computer, etc.)

6) Live in the moment. Instead of thinking life as I knew it was over, just roll with it and see where the changes lead me. My blood pressure was rising because I was anticipating all the problems. Stop. Refocus on now. Today was a little easier. Eventually, I will transition to the new system and be OK. Relax, embrace the moment. Focus on the benefits.

In the end, we can fight change or embrace it. I’m saving my energy for things that really matter!

Check out Dr. Linda Mintle’s book, Breaking Free from Stress, for more help with change and stress.

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Put Down That Cell Phone and Pay Attention!

posted by Linda Mintle

textingRecently, I was in New York City. I love the energy of that city. But I noticed something this time I had not noticed before.

People were constantly walking in to me because they were on their smart phones and not paying attention to where they were going! And when someone crashed in to me on the sidewalk, there was no, “Excuse me!” Instead she looked at me as if I should get out of her way! Others never looked up, just kept moving forward.

A young woman was texting and ran into the light pole on the corner. She winced, grabbed her ankle, but continued to walk and text. I also noticed a woman turning right on the street in her car. She never looked up because she was texting but made the turn anyway! It was frightening because if anyone had been in her path, she would have hit those people. Imagine making a right turn in SoHo at the height of the noon lunch hour and not even looking to see who was in the walkway!

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Remember the woman who fell head first into a fountain while shopping because she was texting?

Or how about the 15 year old who fell into a open man hole cover?

According to doctors, more accidents involve pedestrians because people are not paying attention. In fact, in 2008 the American College of Emergency Physicians issued a warning due to the rising number of accidents they saw in emergency rooms from texting. It’s not only your ego that will be bruised when you text your way into a wall, but you can also cause injury to yourself–twisted ankle, head injury, serious fall, etc.

The obsession people have with their phones is a little concerning. Now don’t get me wrong, I really like my IPhone,  but I am not talented enough to walk, drive and text or check email. My (and your) brain cannot handle all the distractions and be safe. This is a scientific fact.  And we all know the dangers of  texting while driving.  So why do we feel we have to be on our phones every minute? Because we can? It may be that simple. Welcome to the pitfalls (literally) of instant communication.

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When we start running in to people on the sidewalk and putting the lives of pedestrians in danger, we need to rethink the need for immediacy in our communication.

So while you are walking to a destination, take these five steps:

1) Put your phone in your purse or pocket and put it on silent so you won’t be tempted to answer.

2) Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to where you walk–your life is worth it and it is rude to bump into people and not say excuse me!

3) If you are with someone, use those moments to actually chat and laugh a little.

4) Take a break from information overload and enjoy your surroundings. Feed off the energy of the people and the excitement of the city.

5) Finally, c0nsider others. You and your activities are not more important than courtesy to others!

 

 

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